26 February 2010

How to shop online, save money, and be safe!

So it is the 26th of February and I'm already falling a little behind on my New Years' Resolution to blog more. I have a lot of really good advice to share online, hell, probably a lot of really biased, political stuff too, but that's what makes blogging so great - you got suckered here somehow, now you're reading this, and like a crack addict, you just need a little more of it! Okay, that's probably exaggerated a bit, you can obviously stop reading at any time and---how about I just get into this blog topic already? Greaaaaat....

So you want to shop online for things but don't know how to do it, aren't sure of the risks involved, want to find good deals, and so forth. Well, being the person amongst my friends and family that everyone always says "how did you find it for so cheap?" I'm here to help! Let's start at the beginning.

I want to find an item. I don't know what the model number is, crap I don't even know what brand I'm looking for. But in less than 5 minutes, I'll have my credit card input into someone's secure online terminal and feel great about my purchase, mainly because I didn't buy it at a big-box store for 100-400% more! Recently, I was looking for a region-free DVD player that upscaled to 1080p through an HDMI output since my USA PS3 does great, but hates PAL movies. Wow. Alright! How in the world do I find something like that....

Google is your friend! That's right, add him as a friend on Facebook, he'll be at your wedding and probably drink all your booz---sidetracked again. Just start searching Google for what you're looking for, but don't be too specific. Check out my OTHER blog post on tips on searching successfully for more info. In this situation, you want to put in key words that will help you find JUST the items you are looking for. We're going to search for DVD Player NTSC PAL 1080p HDMI under Google Shopping results, and sort them from lowest price to highest - click the link of the search terms to see what comes up. Sure, sorting by Relevance gets you some decent results, it doesn't tell you which is the lowest priced DVD player!

Remove terms you don't want results for. As you can see from the link, Google wants me to buy an HDMI cable that works for DVD players that are both NTSC and PAL formated, which will work to display 1080p video. Yes, I searched for all that, but I don't want any cables included just yet (I have plenty already, thanks), so let's hit this search with a -cable* and see what comes up. The search effectively dropped off the cables and started my search results with a $38.99 Coby DVD288 NTSC and PAL 1080p Full-HD upscaling DVD player with HDMI output on eBay. Should I buy it? NOT JUST YET! Once you click the link, you'll see they want over $14 to ship it, and the next result on the list was only a dollar more with FREE shipping. Yep, I'll take that one!

Find a reputable seller. While eBay is a pretty easy way to find something, how do you know you're getting a quality product from a reputable seller and won't get scammed out of your hard-earned cash? Well, you don't, really. All things are a crap-shoot online, and it is best to use CREDIT cards to buy your items and not DEBIT cards. Yeah, PayPal will cover your ass on things, but why fight it out with your bank? Just call up your credit card company and tell them the product hasn't arrived or isn't what you ordered. Hell, I ordered a $750 HTC TyTN II phone from a guy on eBay and had it shipped from China (where they're manufactured, don't get all crazy-eyed over hearing it was shipped from China just yet). The seller sent me some rinky-dink 2 year old HTC phone and I wasn't having that.... A quick note to him on eBay and phone call to my credit card company solved all that! Plus, you pay with certain American Express cards and you can get Purchase Protection and Extended Warranty features at no extra charge, but that's a whole other blog....

On this search we did, B&H Photo-Video-Audio has 32,894 seller ratings at the time of writing, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Yeah, I'm going to trust them. Why? Well, 31,578.24 out of 32,894 people gave them a perfect review. If 96% of people surveyed told you Domino's Pizza is better than Papa Johns (just as an example), would you believe them? And remember this about seller ratings - not everyone rates a sale online, especially if it is positive. Hell I don't think I've EVER rated a sale I've made on Amazon because they don't push it as much as eBay does, and Google seller ratings are pushed about the same or less than Amazon. So that's nearly 33 thousand people who FELT like turning their attention from their newly received Photo-Video-Audio product from B&H and wanted to post their positive feedback for them, something probably twice as many people haven't even thought to do. Now, if their response was negative, you better believe those people jumped online and told EVERYONE about their dealings!

How does PayPal protect me? Ask them! But seriously, check out PayPal for yourself. They'll tell you all about how they prevent your account information from being shown to sellers and will protect your purchases if someone tries to scam you. I've been a member of eBay and PayPal since 2000, so I know that if I want to buy something online, I can trust PayPal for it. Just as long as it isn't gun-related, because God forbid Americans are allowed to protect themselves and use the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution the way it was written. PayPal will freeze all transactions and suspend your account if you use it to buy or sell anything firearm related. While my gun buddies and I hate that, it is just something I have to deal with when it comes to wacky Liberals who love making the rules and making it difficult for responsible, law-abiding citizens of the greatest country on Earth. But then again, that's an entirely other blog topic!!!

That's a whole lot of information for now, as always, let me know if you have any questions or things I should add to this, I'll post up as much as I can to help!

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